So, what have I learned?

I’ve certainly been in a number of sessions over the last three days, many of which I’ve blogged about here, but what have I learned?

It’s been refreshing to immerse myself again in the IB world and its vast labyrinthe infrastructure which only becomes (frighteningly) apparent at times like these. It’s been good to catch up with some familiar colleagues, spend some intensive time with a colleague from my own school and meet some interesting new people. I’ve had an invitation to a primary school in Bangalore, seen a new and interesting looking anti-LMS called ‘teamie’ and have had the new iPad Shakespeare app demo’d for me by a super-keen Cambridge University Press man. I’ve taken the subway to Chinatown (*like every other system in the world the ticketing system is better than Melbournes) gone to the top of the tallest (twin) towers in the world and enjoyed performances from a range of talented students who’ve been featured every morning.
And that’s without mentioning any of the sessions at all, including some great keynotes and a session on leadership lessons from Shakespeare’s Henry V that was entertaining and moving and had some good lessons from the leader’s experience of the ‘dark night’. (Interestingly, the sessions I took notes with the stylus using Penultimate haven’t really featured in the blog; I have to type them up again afresh and that seems an effort at the moment.)
I’ve been to some great workshops and some infuriating ones, have put my hand up to contribute only to be ignored for the keener student with the straighter hand at the front (oh yeah, that’s how that feels), have listened to some teachers and leaders who talk about themselves and their school but never their students and seen others who have made it their life work to change the world one conversation at a time.
Taking up my pet topic of technology I’ve been heartened to see more conversations that ‘get it’, and less that talk about how kids ‘only play games and muck-around with computers’ and only a few outright annoying ‘Google is making us all stupid (except me)’ presentations, warm, nostalgic and comforting to much of the audience as they are, like a nice cup of Ovaltime in your pyjamas in front of the fire.
There are problems with the IB; it’s huge Gormenghastian indifference, the transitional moments, the elitism, the dotpointing and the bureaucracy it serves, creates and fosters.  But, at the heart of it, there’s also some compelling learning that’s possible within the structure, and some passionate people working in it.
I fly home tomorrow, with only four days of the term left until Easter, and then back up this way to Vietnam for a holiday. I’ve been there before and was entranced. I hope to have some new learning there too.
Above and below: some images from a short time in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Warrick. Below: Green view from the 22nd Floor
Below: Dr Paula Barrett talking about the importance of preventative work in mental health.
Below: Cooling down in Chinatown.
Below: View from the Two Towers
Below: Conference essentials.

The IB Five Year Review: what’s new

We’re doing an IB Five Year Review this year (though it’s not called that now) so I thought I should go to this session on  what’s involved, and what’s changed, presented by Stephen Keegan, who did a great job, given the nature of this presentation and its emphasis on governance and regulations.
Some of the changes to the process include:
  • Centralised documentation
  • Emphasis on ongoing development through the school’s action plan
  • More detailed explanation of the self-study process
  • More focused questions under each standard
  • Specific PD requirements to complete during the period.
There are 76 practices listed for schools to cover and they emphasised that they’d thrown the review back on schools, ‘you are evaluating yourself, dynamically, over the full five years’. They argued that the self-study should take around a year and that there is room for celebration as well.
The action plan lists objectives, actions, dates, whose responsible, budgetary implications and evidence. He suggested by starting with every practice as an objective, then starting from there. Not all need to be addressed in detail. Philosophy etc. might already have been dealt with, but Curriculum might need more attention. Lots of things are uploaded, especially policies.
There needs to be Professional Development plan, a curriculum review cycle. New requirements here come into play in January 2014.It isn’t necessary to upload evidence in the form of certificates to prove staff went to the PD. Also, only one teacher in each subject (eg Language B) needs to attend the PD; they argued for a reasonable and common-sense approach.
Next year the PD requirements will be stricter with a real emphasis on new teachers coming into a school having access to IB PD.
There was some discussion about gathering evidence,who does it, and what it looks like. Student surveys should be done, he argued. Parent might also be involved, either with a survey or forum. Existing school documentation should be emphasised. Only the overview is submitted to the IBO now. This is an area where providing some more information about the nature of the school might be useful, especially if one review looks very different to the others. The course outline required is a course outline – “it doesn’t need to be Atlas Rubicon up in lights” on registration ,but there is a lot of interpretation around the require, not for “comprehensive” curriculum. They argued that some sample curriculum would help: a unit plan from maths, some formative assessment from History etc. they also suggested that passwords into systems like Atlas would be fine. Also, if you say you exceed the practice, then you should provide evidence.
On another matter: first time I’ve seen PREZI used as a presentation tool too; nice transitions, but a big bunch of text on a slide isn’t really anything radically different from PowerPoint really and it was too small to read from the back of the room, even with my new 1.5 magnifiers!

Where is the IB heading?

I thought I should take the opportunity to acquaint myself with current IB strategic directions and how the organisation saw itself, so I got into a session at IBAC2013 on this topic Here’s what I found out:

Where is the IB heading?
The IB is three years into a five year strategy, looking ahead to new directions especially regarding digital technologies. We were given a break-down of the kinds of new directions that the IB is looking at currently. I haven’t included notes here on the MYP or PYP programs specifically.
IB Alumni Network
The IB now has nearly 30000 students in an Alumni Network, helping with university recognition and research participation.
myIB – Promoting IB Success
A promotion to personalise the impact of IB for personal stories
World Student Conferences
Global learning opportunities to bring students together. In 2012, 561 students from 49 countries attended a conference in Segovia, Spain. There will be four more in 2013: Hong Kong, Canada and in the UK. (more at
MyIB Digital Toolkit for IB World Schools
Advertising and communication tools to inform (and persuade) parents and students
IB Continuum
More linking of the program contexts
Revised IB Learner Profile
Will stay as 10 attributes with revised descriptors and clarifying relation to international mindedness.
Approaches to teaching and learning across DP
Trying to make the Diploma teaching more focus and coherent, featuring best-practice pedagogy. New Global Politics subject.
Online diploma courses for students
Over 1000 students, 260 schools already involved, expected to double. The idea of ‘open world schools’ for external students
IB Career Related Certificate (IBCC)
A new program providing multiple pathways
University Performance
Increasing data showing higher results, completion etc in university for IB graduates.
Moving from paper to digital. May 2013, 97% of scripts e-marked, with quality assurance through pre-marked random ‘seeding’.
Photo: Twin towers at night by Warrick

Human Ingenuity: An Overview of IB Thinking

This presentation from the AAIB 2009 Conference was from Malcolm Nicolson – Head of MYP (Cardiff)

He talked about the 1986 split into IB and IGSCE? and the history of the IB and how the various sections had developed individually and how the different programs talked about inspiration and ingenuity.

He acknowledged that the IB currently didn’t have an over-arching focus on ingenuity, but that was a goal they were working towards as a direct result of this conference. It was a fairly tenuous link he made at times. It was also blue dotpoints on the official IB template. Hmm.

It was more interesting when he discussed where IB should go in the future; ie. Can we address 21st century learners with these structures. This had been the focus for a recent discussion in England and came up with some points such as:

Teaching and assessing in multiple ways, disclipined minds, synthesising minds, creating mind, respectful mind, ethical mind…

How easy will it be for students to be individuals and have time for personal reflection with a desire for developing self-reflection skills when students are ‘never alone because they’re on Twitter and Facebook’ Students are wanting to present their learning on Facebook, on blogs, on wikis. What is the IB going to do about that? How relevant is the written exam now?

Should IB do more about sustainability?

How should IB respond to technology overall?

He talked about their work with Harvard Graduate School of Education (USA) and publications coming from that association. One of the emphases here was on rigorous learning in the discipline and interdisciplinary synergy as well as focus on real world projects and issues.

One interesting point he made was that the MYP program provided opportunities for creativity and innovation in a way that many state-sponsored curricula didn’t. Teachers are ‘given the freedom to create their own courses.

Reframing Schooling for Today’s World (Greg Whitby)

‘It’s all about the cloud: anytime, anywhere’

Whitby was the first keynote of the AAIBS 2009 Conference. After a brief attempt at getting his audience to do the chicken dance, he began by talking about something of the bad press that education gets; that we somehow need a ‘revolution’ to make schools right. (Or politicians need one to get elected?)

However, he argued that disengagement of students was the key factor in education today, and argued that educators need to ‘re-take the ground’ on the education debate.

He argued that young people were disengaging because the structures, processes, procedures schools put in place no longer matched the world they live in.

Governments want a silver bullet. Educators need to be creative and collaborative about solutions and resist such simplistic approaches

How do you scale innovation in a school? Ingenuity is a better world than discovery because it involves bringing expertise to the problems

He argued that the laptop computer was not liked by students (?: not my experience) because the computer was always right (?:huh?) and that the Iphone was a step to learners constructing the knowledge (?) moving away from the hierarchal to the conceptual.

He lost me through this bit but then ended by saying that by marching kids into computer labs once a week and calling it ‘technology’, while all along they all had more powerful computers in their pockets which were officially ‘banned’ by their schools, was somewhat silly.

He then went back to reaffirming it being about the learning, not the technology. Okay, I was back. He then said it was about learning for this century and talked of the recent OECD work which described learning having four components:

Customised: 1-1 learning

Knowledge sources: Cloud, anywhere, anytime learning

Collaboration: between teachers and students, students and students, and teachers and teachers (Called in the literature as ‘de-privatising practice‘) Learning is a ‘mediated practice’

Assessment: here, he emphasised ‘assessment for learning’.

Whitby has an almost aggressive style of delivery, striding the stage and declaiming that change was coming and that it was all going to get harder but in the end I liked, and agreed with, most of what he was saying.

It got more interesting when he began taking about what these things looked like in real life; what do we do in real life in our schools on Monday?

Whitby’s new schools would have a different framework, different learning spaces, no bells, individualised and based around a conceptual framework not an industrial framework

Such models are more complex (that’s why we don’t see many schools doing it) and require some background ‘grunt’ in knowledge management systems to deliver it.

He also talked about the work of John Hattie, who I’ve been looking a lot at lately, who argues that the two biggest influences on student learning are the teacher, and feedback.


Whitby argued that teacher learning, especially about pedagogy, was often hugely ignored, and yet it was critical. The best form of professional learning is a workspace approach, not a workshop approach, learning with colleagues n a school. The systems that are making the biggest difference are building time for reflection on practice.

When I got back to work I found this YouTube video from Whitby, which discusses some of the concepts he was exploring here.

Human Ingenuity – Pedagogy for the 21st Century

I’m in Adelaide this weekend at the AAIBS (IB) 2009 Conference with the ambitious agenda of ‘Human ingenuity; Pedagogy for the 21st Century. But it’s begun well and I’ll add some more details notes and responses to the sessions when I find a powerpoint and a hotel that doesn’t charge $55 for internet access.

The Conference website is HERE